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Friday, August 21, 2015

Therapist Debra Fisher Gets Her Name Cleared and Her Absurd Punishment For Helping a Student, Reversed

 Debra Fisher's punishment for helping a student was outrageous.

Luckily, the public was able to force the New York City Department of Education to do the right thing.

Betsy Combier, Editor
President, ADVOCATZ

NYC education officials reverse school therapist’s punishment for effort to help needy student

Ben Chapman, NY Daily News 

Manhattan Public School 333 therapist Debra Fisher was suspended without pay for sending an email during work hours to raise cash for a needy student. Officials have overturned her punishment, reinstating her pay and wiping the case from her record.

Education department officials have reversed the punishment of a city school therapist who was suspended over a fund-raiser she created to help a student.

Manhattan Public School 333 therapist Debra Fisher got into trouble for sending an email during work hours to raise cash for a needy student in October.

Fisher, a 10-year veteran of the city schools, was suspended from her job without pay for 30 days over the incident, prompting outrage from families across the city.

On Thursday, education officials overturned Fisher’s punishment, reinstating her pay and wiping the case from her record.

“Now I can stop fighting this madness and focus on the kids,” Fisher said. “I can’t wait to get back to work and be the best therapist I can be. That’s all I ever wanted.”


On Monday, a report from the city’s Special Commissioner of Investigation found an Education Department investigator made inaccurate statements and drew the wrong conclusions in his probe of Fisher.

Department spokeswoman Devora Kaye said Fisher will suffer no official negative consequences over the case.

“We regret the suspension caused as a result of this investigation, and we are pleased to resolve the situation,” said Kaye.

Fisher said she would drop a suit to recover her pay and have the incident removed from her records, since the city has already done so.

They Done Her Wrong

Ed. Dept. ripped over suspension of good-hearted school therapist

Monday, August 17, 2015, 8:50 PM


City investigators ripped Education Department officials Monday for blowing a probe of a Manhattan school therapist who was suspended for trying to help one of her students.

The scathing report from the city’s Special Commissioner of Investigation found an Education Department investigator made inaccurate statements and drew the wrong conclusions in his probe last year of Public School 333 therapist Debra Fisher.

“I’m glad to be vindicated,” said Fisher, 56, a 10-year veteran of the city schools, who was suspended from her job without pay for 30 days over the incident. “But the system needs a lot of work to be fixed.”


Fisher grabbed headlines in October when she got into trouble for sending an email during work hours for a fundraiser to help a student.

Fisher had set up a Kickstarter fundraising drive aimed at helping PS 333 student Aaron Philip, 14, put together a book and film to help other disabled kids — an official work project she said the school enthusiastically approved.

But when Education Department investigators — probing an unrelated complaint against Fisher from a co-worker — discovered her work on the fund-raiser, they suspended her for using work time and equipment for non-work purposes.

Aaron’s father, Petrone Philip, didn’t return a call for comment.

Fisher, who makes about $5,000 a month, returned to work after her suspension, but she filed a suit for back pay for the time she was suspended and to have the incident removed from her disciplinary file. The suit is still active.

Major Flaws Found in Inquiry That Led to Suspension of Public-School Therapist


For sheer bureaucratic folly, it would be hard to top the suspension last year of a devoted occupational therapist in the public school system who showed children in wheelchairs how to get places.

The therapist, Debra Fisher, created an art therapy program for disabled children. She helped one family move from a homeless shelter to an apartment that was wheelchair accessible, arranged swimming lessons for a boy who couldn’t walk, and gave workshops for other educators on assisting children who have special needs. One of her prize students at the Manhattan School for Children on the Upper West Side, a boy born with cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair to travel, gave a talk at Tumblr about a blog that Ms. Fisher encouraged him to write. Now he has written a book that will be published by HarperCollins.

Ms. Fisher was hard-driving — she contacted me at least a dozen times about finding an apartment for the homeless family — and accomplished, as is apparent from a 2014 TedX lecture.

But last year, Ms. Fisher was suspended for 30 days without pay, charged with “theft of services” and conflict of interest.

What did the “theft” involve?

Supposedly sending fund-raising emails on school time to help the boy raise money for his book.

And the conflict of interest?

Ms. Fisher had a weekend job at the Children’s Museum of the Arts, guiding its staff members on how children with limited use of their arms or legs could take part in museum art projects. As it happened, some families from her school were also involved with the museum, and an investigator with a disciplinary arm of New York City’sDepartment of Education concluded that they must have put in the fix for Ms. Fisher to be hired there.

The investigator’s report was jammed with mistakes, omitted context — for instance, you would never have known from the report that the school principal had directly approved the fund-raising and other worthy activities of Ms. Fisher — and twisted statements made by people at the museum to create an illusion of conflict in entirely innocent circumstances. In fact, parents had nothing to do with Ms. Fisher’s hiring there. Still, a report that was untrue in every significant detail led to her suspension.

On Monday, the city’s Department of Investigation said those findings were factually wrong and the result of unprofessional work, and recommended wholesale changes to the branch of the Education Department that allowed such shoddy work to be issued. The new report noted that the person who conducted the investigation had no meaningful supervision, and had even recommended that Ms. Fisher be fired. Most egregious, the student writing the book said the investigator pressed him not to be protective of Ms. Fisher and told him not to speak with his father about the interview.

Yet the suspension of Ms. Fisher was not simply the work of one obsessive Javert, or one broken arm of the bureaucracy. “I took the mandate of Chancellor Carmen Fariña to heart — to put the needs of the children first,” Ms. Fisher said on Monday. “Somewhere along the way, I was sure that people’s better angels would prevail. But no one said this person is trying her best, and has no infractions.”

From the principal on the front line, to Chancellor Fariña, to the United Federation of Teachers, every person in authority who had a chance to stop a reckless process either rubber-stamped false charges, or waved them on without vigorous objection.

What does the Education Department make of this new narrative?

It is overhauling the division and procedures that produced the flawed charges against Ms. Fisher, according to Devora Kaye, the department’s spokeswoman.

What of Ms. Fisher, who was summarily ordered out of her school for 30 days — without a word of explanation to the students she worked with — and lost her pay and health insurance for that period?

“The suspension of Debra Fisher is under review,” Ms. Kaye said.

As well it should be.

“This was a thoroughly botched investigation by a thoroughly dysfunctional system that resulted in a miscarriage of justice,” said Joel Kurtzberg, a former teacher who is now a partner in the law firm Cahill Gordon & Reindel. He represented Ms. Fisher in a court case to overturn the suspension. “We’re hoping the city will react appropriately.”

Email: Twitter: @jimdwyernyt

Investigator questions competency of DOE’s grade-fixing probers

, NY POST, August 18, 2015

Richard Condon
Special Schools Investigator Richard Condon issued a blistering report Monday questioning the competency of the Department of Education’s in-house investigative squad — the same unit looking into allegations of test-rigging uncovered by The Post.
In a scathing 19-page letter to Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, Condon concluded that DOE investigator Wei Liu conducted a shoddy conflicts-of-interest probe of Debra Fisher, a veteran therapist at the Manhattan School for Children, which serves special-needs kids.
Even more troubling, Condon said, was that Liu’s bosses at the DOE Office of Special Investigations provided almost no supervision and simply rubber-stamped his findings.
Top brass admitted they did little more in some instances than look for grammatical errors in Liu’s reports.
“The findings of an investigation which recommends the termination of someone’s employment should be subjected to an oversight and review process that includes more than checking for grammar and punctuation,” Condon wrote.
School officials refused to provide Liu’s resume to show he was qualified for the post he held.
Liu had recommended Fisher be fired for, among other things, soliciting funds for a needy student during school hours.
Fariña upheld the findings, but decided to suspend Fisher for one month without pay instead of getting rid of her entirely.
Condon had his own investigators re-interview Liu’s witnesses. They complained that he had erroneously reported or mischaracterized their statements.
As a result, Condon said, Liu came up with “inaccurate conclusions” that “did not meet professional standards.”
Liu resigned in April.
Joel Kurtzberg, a lawyer for Fisher, said Condon’s findings vindicate her. “The report confirms what we’ve been saying all along,” he said.
The Department of Education said it is overhauling practices at its investigative unit, which has been assigned to examine test-rigging charges spotlighted by The Post.
“Every case will now have an attorney reviewing and drafting the final investigative reports,” said Fariña spokeswoman Devora Kaye.

Teacher Jason Duchan Sues LAUSD Over A Fake Facebook Page

The tricks and whims of those people who choose to lie about others is too destructive to allow.
The case of Jason Duchan is an example of this, where a student - who was arrested - destroyed Mr. Duchan's life.

Betsy Combier, Editor
President, ADVOCATZ

Jason Duchan

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A teacher at LA Unified filed a lawsuit against the district Wednesday after he was suspended in 2014 over a lewd Facebook page that was created with his name and image on it.
A student was eventually arrested by the LAPD and charged with creating the page, but not before the teacher, Jason Duchan, was suspended from his job as an art instructor at John Francis Polytechnic High School in Sun Valley.
Duchan’s lawsuit, which was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court and seeks unspecified damages, includes allegations of retaliation, harassment, defamation, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress, according to City News Service. Duchan also claims he has suffered panic attacks and other mental health struggles as a result of his suspension and the district’s retaliation.
Duchan spoke to LA School Report in March and he outlined the details of his complaints against the district, which began in November of 2014, when he said he was suddenly suspended without being told why. Duchan said if district officials had asked him about the Facebook page, the matter could have been cleared up in one afternoon without a suspension.
“They should have called me in and showed me the Facebook page,” Duchan said in a phone interview.

Duchan provided screen shots of the Facebook page, which had a total of one friend and three posts that included some mild sexual references. Duchan said the one friend the page had turned out to be the student who was arrested for creating it. Duchan said he had caught the student drawing genitals on a desk — something one of the Facebook posts made a reference to — and reported him to the school’s principal. He said he believes the Facebook page was created as a revenge plot by the student.
The district sent out a letter to all the school’s parents informing them of Duchan’s removal, something that is district policy in the aftermath of the Miramonte Elementary abuse scandal when LA Unified created new procedures to deal with sexual misconduct allegations against district employees.
Duchan said the district eventually offered him his old job back after a few weeks but refused to publicly clear his name. LA School Report confirmed in March that a student had been arrested and charged with creating the page. The student was not publicly identified because he was a minor. Despite the arrest, Jose Cantu, head of the district’s Student Safety Investigative Team, said that an active investigation of Duchan by the district was still underway.
“They were putting me into a hostile environment. They had already sent letters home, and wouldn’t parents be upset to find out a teacher under investigation was back in the classroom?” Duchan said.
Sending him back to the same classroom without clearing his name would invite disrespect and hostility from students, parents and other teachers, put him in physical danger, and “caused plaintiff to develop or exacerbate his mental disability,” the suit alleges, according to City News Service. “Plaintiff suffered a severe panic attack.”
LA Unified communications director Shannon Haber said the district was reviewing the lawsuit and had no comment.
Duchan was given a teaching job at the Cesar E. Chavez Learning Academies, but the lawsuit claims the district continued to retaliate against him through various means, including his sick leave absences being reported as being unexcused, City News Service reported.

Jessica Millen, Indiana Pre-School Teacher, Writes About Why She Left Teach For America

The scripted talk which Ms. Millen grew to dislike reminds me of the scripts mandated in The Workshop Model. I am not a fan of scripts when children are in the mix because children, and life circumstances, are unpredictable.

Betsy Combier, Editor
President, ADVOCATZ

The Teach For America Bait and Switch: From 'You’ll Be Making a Difference' to 'You’re Making Excuses'
Idealistic young people are lured by TFA's promises. But what happens once they're placed in classrooms has left some alums questioning the organization's approach.

Editor's note: In the decade and a half of its existence, Teach For America has trained upwards of 50,000 individuals to enter classrooms nationwide and "make a difference" in the lives of children -- usually those living in poverty. But the question of how prepared these individuals are to deal with the realities faced by the children they teach and meet their educational needs has long been in question.
In the following excerpt, taken from an essay in the newly published book,Teach For America Counter-Narratives: Alumni Speak Up and Speak Out,one former TFA corps member shares her account of her time with the organization, alleging that TFA both "preyed on [her] naïveté of the lived realities of urban schooling" and "exploited [her] desire to 'make a difference.'" Her disillusionment with the organization and its educational philosophy grew so deep, in fact, that she resigned after just 6 months.
The Bait
On the urging of a friend and campus recruiter, I applied to join TFA in October of my senior year at the University of Notre Dame. After a multipart interview process, I was accepted into the program’s Greater New Orleans region. Soon afterwards, TFA began to effectively use social networks to bolster my desire to join. Former classmates and undergraduate campus recruiters reached out and stressed how wonderful it was that I had gotten into such a selective organization. My interviewer called to congratulate me on a job well done. After being bombarded with so many congratulations, I couldn’t help but feel proud that I had passed through such a selective hiring process.
The official TFA recruiter on my campus held events for accepted corps members after each hiring deadline, offering free drinks and appetizers at an on-campus restaurant. I found it strange how much money TFA, a nonprofit organization, spent on us. We wore name tags, ate food, and discussed our excitement about the upcoming school year. Our recruiter, like the other TFA corps members and staff who had reached out to me, stressed the “prestige” of the program and how much TFA would help us in the future. He himself was a former TFA corps member who taught for 3 years before joining the recruiting arm of the organization. I found his enthusiasm for TFA contagious as he pointed out TFA’s connections with graduate schools and the numerous opportunities that would be afforded to us post-TFA.
At the time, I was impressed by how many corps members were still involved in public education. According to TFA, more than 775 alumni were in school leadership positions at schools across the country (Teach For America, 2012a). I was glad to hear that TFA wasn’t always just used as a stepping stone to more lucrative careers; information on the TFA website boasted that as of August 2013, 78% of alumni from the Greater New Orleans region were still in education (Teach For America, 2012b). I didn’t bother to look up the evidence behind TFA’s claims. I trusted that the information from this professional organization that seemed to care so much about children was ethically collected, compiled, and reported. I now know that the organization’s assertion that “Teach For America corps members help their students achieve academic gains equal to or larger than teachers from other preparation programs, according to the most recent and rigorous studies on teacher effectiveness” (Teach For America, 2012c) is, at best, extremely misleading. Reviews of the research cited by TFA to back its claims of corps member effectiveness ultimately reveal a less favorable picture; the majority of studies listed by TFA are not peer-reviewed, are problematic, and/or produced mixed results (Kovacs & Slate-Young, 2013; Vasquez Heilig & Jez, 2014).
But taking TFA’s claims of effectiveness at face value, I continued to be wooed by the organization. Besides the free events hosted by the campus recruiter, TFA offered additional financial incentives to make the bait even sweeter. I remember gushing to my parents that I would not only receive a full teacher’s salary, but also get funding to cover the transitional costs of moving and living during the summer before I began teaching. As an indebted college student, it seemed that, on top of using my skills and education to serve in public education, I was making a solid financial decision in joining TFA. Such tantalizing benefits convinced me that not only was I making a strong move for my future, but I would also be “making a difference” in the lives of low-income and minority students. As a young, well-educated, idealistic student, I took the bait—hook, line and sinker.
The “Training”
After a 7-hour drive to TFA’s summer training Institute in Atlanta, I was excited to begin. Although I had been warned that Institute could be an overwhelming experience, the intensity of our schedule was still surprising. Breakfast at 5:30 am, followed by a full day at our school sites, a quick dinner, additional training sessions in the evening, and then trying to complete the next day’s lesson plans was the perfect recipe for sleep deprivation, and left little time to process all this new information.
During this training, the organization’s “you’ll be making a difference” message became more insistent. Each morning, after being bused to our school site in the early morning, we were greeted by our school director. After signing in, we all gathered in our school site’s library to begin our morning with an inspirational video. Over the course of those 5 weeks we watched what seemed to be every single well-known, inspirational education video on YouTube. We saw Kid President’s “Pep Talk to Teachers and Students!”, listened to Taylor Mali tell us “What Teachers Make,” watched Sir Ken Robinson’s animation video “Changing Education Paradigms,” and many, many more.
Their model was working! At the time, I was inspired and eager to be in the classroom. Here I was, part of this great movement that was going to make a difference! So swept up in the staff members’ fervor, I did not stop to think about why we were being shown all these inspirational and emotionally charged messages, or what they would ultimately contribute to my ability to be a competent, caring, and effective teacher.
It didn’t end with just morning bursts of “let’s change the world.” Throughout our training sessions, we were often shown videos of real TFA teachers working in their classrooms. They were always uplifting clips, showing well-behaved students and enthusiastic teachers. We were told they had started just like us at one point in time, although the teachers’ educational backgrounds were never divulged. We were never shown any videos of “bad” teachers or teachers who were struggling, nor did we see how teachers deal with students who are challenging behaviorally, or even defiant. And we were certainly never shown how to handle students’ physical altercations or emotional breakdowns.
I had expected more hands-on training throughout the program. But with only a half hour to an hour and half in front of students each day, I found that we spent more time talking about how we were going to be make a difference rather than learning how to be effective teachers who could ultimately “make a difference.”
In addition to watching inspirational videos, we listened to many TFA staff members give talks about the rewarding nature of teaching. They showed us pictures of themselves and their students and told stories of how they had impacted their students’ lives. These peppy speakers were extremely positive, only occasionally using vague phrasing to describe teaching as “the hardest thing you’ll ever do.” There was no delving into why it was the “hardest thing I would ever do.” nor was there space to ask the speakers to elaborate. While I recognize that it might be difficult to convey the specific challenges that come with the first year of teaching, when such uplifting testimony is paired with only examples of successful TFA teachers, it was easy and safe for me to assume that I would soon begin “making a difference” once I entered the classroom on my own.
The “making a difference” message was not limited to our sessions in classroom management and pedagogy. During our training, we attended two huge pep rallies, one at the beginning and one at the end of Institute. As the Atlanta Institute hosted multiple TFA regions, the auditorium was packed. At the opening rally we were greeted by a huge PowerPoint slide declaring “One Day,” highlighting TFA’s mantra that “One day all children will have access to an excellent education.” The title of the evening’s program was “Your Role in the Movement for Educational Equity.” After listening to speakers thank us for undertaking the journey we were about to begin, I felt excited. It seemed like TFA was an organization that was actually making a tangible difference in communities across the United States.
Before the closing pep rally, each school site’s corps members created a chant to be shared with the full assembly. Most corps members had purchased t-shirts for their school sites, and as we filed in to our assigned school site spaces, the chanting began. Huge groups of matching corps members were on their feet, yelling at the top of their lungs the cheers they had written. Soon, the TFA staff running the rally began to moderate the cheering, shouting each school site’s name and encouraging each group to be louder than the rest. After more peppy speakers, a student brass band played the corps members out, matching the same frenzied enthusiasm that the hundreds of young, soon-to-be teachers had displayed. In retrospect, the techniques used at these rallies made it feel more like a multilevel marketing convention than a gathering of thoughtful educators. It is strange that TFA felt the need to use such manipulative methods of drumming up enthusiasm on a group of well-educated individuals already committed to their organization.
The Switch
After those 5 weeks of training, I was alone in a classroom with 27 eight- and nine-year-olds. I had no idea what to do with the rigorous and inflexible curriculum modalities that dictated what I taught and when. There was nothing in our training that indicated our teaching lives would be so scripted and controlled. Moreover, I was confused by strict administrative policies that were completely developmentally inappropriate; for instance, my third graders were allowed only 20 minutes of recess, once a week. Again, there was no mention of what to do when school-wide policies were completely incongruent with what I knew at this point to be developmentally appropriate practices.
Trying to balance the demands and expectations of both my school and TFA was challenging, especially when both parties were extremely focused on data and standardized testing to the detriment of what my young students needed. This made it difficult for me to realize my vision of schooling. While I understood the necessity of assessment and its usefulness in gauging how much students know, and therefore in future lesson planning, both my school and TFA’s focus on testing overshadowed my legitimate concerns for students’ emotional and social well-being and academic growth beyond what could be measured in omnipresent assessments. I had to prepare my students for weekly and quarterly testing, on top of looming state-mandated tests that would also measure my success as a teacher. The pressure from both the state and district to raise student test scores manifested in my administration’s extreme concern with test scores and maximizing instructional time not only in specific subjects but also to specific isolated skill sets, always to the detriment of exploring other important areas of elementary education, such as exposure to culture, creative and scientific thinking, music, and art.
Armed only with TFA’s strictly behaviorist methods of classroom management, I was unprepared for many of the issues I faced, and my classroom quickly spiraled out of control. From my 5 weeks of training, I was knowledgeable only about behaviorist management methods that focused on giving clear directions, narrating student behavior when they were following directions, and then giving consequences to those students not complying. These management methods were presented as best practices during our training; no other alternatives were mentioned.
After attempting to use TFA’s preferred classroom management system in my own classroom, I realized that the behaviorist theory of management was not working for my students or for me. When I expressed these feelings to TFA staff members, however, my concerns were ignored and brushed aside. In one meeting with my real-time coach from TFA, who had 4 years of teaching experience, I expressed how uncomfortable I was with forcing my students to remain seated all the time. My coach insisted that students learn best when they are seated. He then noticed that, according to the scripted conversation template from TFA, we had gone over the allotted time for this portion of our meeting. Rather than continuing a conversation that could have helped me understand TFA’s position, he decided that following the prescribed conversation model was more important and ended the discussion. Looking back, it is easy to see why I felt that I was not being supported or listened to by TFA staff. Suddenly, I found myself hearing a different story than the one I was told during the application and training process. Now, instead of “making a difference,” I was told I was “making excuses,” by not believing in myself enough and not being the leader of my classroom.
I met with my TFA manager of teacher leadership development (MTLD) every so often for a check-in. It is interesting to note here that corps members are “managed” by TFA, as if they were commodities, rather than “guided” or “mentored.” At one of these meetings, my MTLD told me she wanted me to have lunch with all my students, so that I could work on “building relationships.” I had already begun to have lunch with small groups of students occasionally, but I was having trouble finding the time to eat with students every day, given the other demands on my time as a new educator. When I brought up what I thought were legitimate concerns—the fact that I had only 25 minutes for lunch, which included dropping off/picking up my students at the cafeteria, and that my administration had concerns about me “rewarding” students who often were not following school rules (eating with students was seen as a reward, not simply a good practice to develop relationships)—my TFA manager told me, “I’m hearing a lot of excuses from you.”
In addition to telling me that I was making excuses, my manager also said that I did not believe in myself enough. As a confident young woman who had had a successful experience at Institute, where I was told, “Your students are going to be so lucky to have you” and “You’re doing so well,” I knew I could be an excellent teacher. I believed in my students and their potential, and had a wealth of knowledge about education, children, and learning, largely from my undergraduate studies. My end-of-Institute award was for “believing in your students.” To be told I didn’t believe in my students or myself was insulting, and not the type of support I expected to receive from TFA staff members.
TFA staff members repeatedly told me that I was not being the leader of my classroom, in the sense that I did not have strict control over my students’ bodily movements. Within TFA’s model of behavioral control, I was expected to have all of my students sitting in their seats at all times, and to accomplish this particular aspect of classroom management by consistently giving consequences. On an intellectual level, I recognized that giving consequences was a necessary part of their management system. It was not that I was incapable of giving my students consequences; the problem was that my vision of schooling did not include a classroom where the teacher is all-powerful, all-knowledgeable, and in strict control at all times. What I was beginning to understand was that there was no room in their model for my vision; in fact, my vision was completely contrary to their understanding of how schooling should be conducted and why. TFA’s Teaching as Leadership model is based upon the idea that teachers are responsible for everything that happens inside of the classroom, regardless of whether or not you agree with the techniques and content you are being forced to adopt (Farr, 2010).
My frustration deepened when TFA staff ignored the fact that there were other factors at work in and out of my classroom that affected student behavior and achievement. I was unable to choose curriculum or what was taught when. TFA’s model of behavioral control and TFA staff instructed me to use extremely scripted sets of phrases, limiting my freedom to develop my own style of classroom instruction that suited my unique context. In addition to this, TFA staff ignored the life circumstances of many of my students. I could not change the circumstances that led Jerome to bring a roach-infested notebook to school, or the fact that Peter’s mother told him to “get his lick back,” meaning that if someone hits him, he should hit back. Whenever I tried to bring up the lived realities of my students’ lives and the real challenges they faced, once again, I was told I was “making excuses.” Despite my having personal knowledge of my students and their families, my voice and ultimately my potential to use alternative methods and ideas for creating a more learner-centered, productive environment was repeatedly pushed aside, as it contradicted TFA talking points.
In the end, I decided to leave. I could not, in good conscience, continue to work for an organization whose guiding educational philosophy varied so greatly from my own. It was not a decision I made lightly, leaving the very students I was trying to love and teach. But after I decided to leave, there came a small moment when I knew I had made the right choice. As I was waiting on duty for the last of the buses to arrive, Sarah caught my eye. She and her younger brother were role-playing the teacher-student relationship and the words coming out of Sarah’s mouth broke my heart: “You’re receiving a consequence! You have earned a lunch detention. You get a consequence!” These are the words and phrases she had heard me use repeatedly, again and again, over and over, as I strove to enact my MTLD’s mandate to give lots of consequences. I had spent 3 months with this child and all I taught her about what it means to be a teacher is that a teacher gives consequences. This was devastating to me, and it was then that I realized that the bait and switch was complete.
For more of this essay, and many other perspectives on the Teach For America experience, you can purchase the complete book of essays here.
Jessica Millen graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2013, majoring in sociology with a minor in education, schooling, and society. She was a 2013 Teach For America (TFA) corps member in New Orleans, where she taught third grade. She currently works as a preschool teacher in South Bend, Indiana.